Kalanchoe tomentosa (Chocolate Soldier)- How to Grow and Propagate? - Gardening World

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Kalanchoe tomentosa (Chocolate Soldier)- How to Grow and Propagate?

 KALANCHOE TOMENTOSA


Kalanchoe tomentosa is a hardy shrub velvety succulent with unusual and attractive foliage. It is native to Madagascar and belongs to the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae). The name ‘tomentosa’ is given because of the fuzzy panda like appearance of the succulent. The fuzzy and cute Panda plants is always a child’s favorite plant.

Luckily, kalanchoe tomentosa is super easy to grow and maintain. Therefore, they make ideal succulents for those who are notorious for killing their plants due to negligence. It also makes a great addition to outdoor and indoor gardens. They can be grown in beautiful containers and hanging baskets to create a captivating display.

Panda plant Kalanchoe tomentosa

Common Names

Kalanchoe tomentosa is known by several common names such as…

Chocolate Soldier

Panda plant

Pussy Ears

Plush Plant

Cocoon plant

Origin

Native to Madagascar, the succulent grows wildly in granite rocks and can survive under xerophytic conditions (with little water).

Shape and Texture

Panda plant has a lovely texture and appearance. The succulent has an erect woody stem that grows up to 3.3 feet tall.

Leaves are oval-shaped gray-green with brownish-red spots at the margins. The leaves bear white-silvery hair that resembles the fur of a Panda bear. Flowers are tubular shaped, tiny, and come in different colors including green, yellow, brown, or purple. You can rarely see the flowers blooming in the spring season.

How to Grow and Care for Kalanchoe tomentosa?

Kalanchoe tomentosa is an easy-to-grow succulent. It does not have special care needs. It is a desert plant and can be grown easily as a houseplant.

Light requirements

Kalanchoe tomentosa prefers to grow in moderate to bright sunlight. Keep the indoor succulents near a bright sunny window where ample sunlight can reach the succulents. Outdoor succulents must be kept at a partially shaded location where they get filtered sunlight. Avoid exposure to bright direct sunlight particularly during the summer season when the sun is too hot. Exposure to extremely hot sunlight can cause the burning of leaves.

Also, make sure your succulents get enough sunlight exposure. If the succulents do not get enough sunlight, they will become stretched out and weak. When the succulents are placed at a dark location, they project their growth towards the source of light. As a result, the succulents grow taller and weaker in search of light and ultimately become stretched out, this phenomenon is called “Etiolation”.

Potting soil

Use a standard succulent or cactus potting soil for growing Panda plants. You can prepare the succulent soil mix on your own or buy a readymade soil mix from the market. These succulents need a well-draining soil mix for their healthy growth. The potting soil should be an equal mix of sand and clay to ensure proper drainage. You can also add perlite in the standard succulent soil mix to improve the drainage.

Watering

Being a xerophyte, the succulent can survive with little water. Watering is the most limited step of Panda Plant care. It needs very little water for its growth and survival. The panda plant has thick leaves and stems that store water and help the succulent to survive in xerophytic conditions for a long time. The stored water is utilized for the normal growth and survival of the succulent when the water supply is limited.

Use the “soak and dry method” for watering the succulent. Give your succulents a drink full of water and wait until the soil dries out completely. When the top couple of inches of the soil dry out completely it is the right time to apply the next water. Insert your finger in the soil and check if the soil is dry or still wet. If the soil still feels moist wait for another couple of days to let it dry out completely.

Note: Panda Plant cannot stand overwatering at all. Be careful while applying water to your succulents because excess water can cause rotting of the roots.

Temperature

Kalanchoe tomentosa grows well in the temperature ranging from 60 to 75-degree Fahrenheit (15-23 °C). The succulent is not cold hardy therefore, it cannot survive temperature below freezing. Also, the succulent is sensitive to extremely high temperatures.

USDA Hardiness zones for Kalanchoe tomentosa

USDA Zone 9a: -6.7 to -3.9 °C (20 to 25 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: -3.9 to -1.1 °C (25 to 30 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: -1.1 to 1.7 °C (30 to 35 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: 1.7 to 4.4 °C (35 to 40 °F)

USDA Zone 11a: 4.4 to 7.2 °C (40 to 45 °F)

USDA Zone 11b: 7.2 to 10 °C (45 to 50 °F)

Humidity

Generally, humidity is not a big deal. They work fine at all levels of humidity. Usually, the humidity at room temperature works perfectly well for growing Panda Plants.

Fertilization

Panda plant gets plenty of nutrients from the potting soil.  It does not require supplemental nutrients like other plants. However, it can get benefit from an extra dose of nutrients. You can apply a balanced dose of liquid succulent fertilizer mix monthly during the spring and summer seasons when the plants are in the active growth phase. Do not apply fertilizers during the winter season when the plants are not growing actively. A balanced fertilizer of half-strength is recommended to fertilize Panda plants. Fertilization can encourage more growth and new blooming in the next growing season.

Propagation

A good and convenient idea would be to propagate new panda plants on your own instead of buying new succulents. It is very easy to propagate these succulents and with just a little effort you can grow all-new Panda plants. Moreover, it is an inexpensive method to prepare several new panda plants. The great news is that you do not need to invest a single penny in buying new succulents from the market.

Panda plants can be easily propagated from seeds, stems, and leaf cuttings. You can remove a healthy disease-free and damage-free leaf from the plant. Gently twist and pull the leaf from the plant. Remove the leaves in such a way that it is a clean pull and no part of it remains attached to the plant.

For the stem cuttings remove a 2 to 3 inches part of the healthy stem. Use a clean and sharp scissor for taking cuttings. Place the cuttings in a warm and dry place to let them callous for a couple of days.

Fill the pots with a standard succulent soil mix and place the cuttings on the top. Keep misting the cuttings several times a day for the first few days. Avoid exposure to bright direct sunlight. The cuttings will establish in the soil and start rooting in 3 to 4 weeks. Once the cuttings are established in the soil move your succulents gradually to normal water and light regimes recommended for mature Panda plants.

Repotting

Panda plants don’t need frequent repotting. They can survive well in the same pots for a long time. However, as a rule, it is recommended to repot your succulents every couple of years. It will provide fresh and fertile soil medium to the succulents. You can also repot your succulents to replace the old and poorly draining soil mix. It is also recommended to repot when your succulents become root-bound.

For repotting pull the succulent gently from the soil medium by digging the soil around its root zone. Fill the pots with a standard cactus soil mix and transfer the succulents to these pots. Let the succulents establish in the new soil medium. Once they are established in the new potting soil give them proper watering and sunlight exposure.

Pruning

Panda plants don’t grow too large therefore, they don’t require pruning. However, in some cases pruning is desirable. You can prune your succulents if you want to shape them as desired. Also, you can remove dead leaves and blooms. Removal of dead or decayed plant parts will make a room for new and healthy growth. Make sure you use a clean and sharp pruning tool. It is also advised to disinfect your tools before pruning.

Insect Pests

Generally, insect pests are not a big problem. Occasionally mealybugs, mites, and thrips can invade your succulents.  The soft-bodied mealybugs are so fond of Panda plants and love to feed on them. If you see a web-like white substance on the surface of leaves that’s a clue that your succulent is attacked by mealybugs. The powdery white material produced by these creepy mealybugs resembles the color of Panda plant leaves therefore, these insects can camouflage on Panda plant leaves easily. Due to this reason, it often becomes difficult to detect the infestation. However, a closer look at the plants can help to identify the mealybugs.

To get rid of the creepy insects, keep monitoring your succulents on regular basis. If you see a few insects crawling on the succulent it is better to remove them manually. Use a pin to remove them from the surface of the leaves.

You can also rub the leaves with 70% isopropyl alcohol to get rid of these creepy bugs. Neem oil spray can also help to reduce infestation. If the infestation is quite heavy it is recommended to use a nontoxic insecticide to throw away these pests.

Poisoning or Toxicity

Though Kalanchoe succulents are safe for humans, they are poisonous to pets such as cats and dogs.

If the pets accidentally feed on these succulents, they can develop several symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, excessive salivation, stomach pain, change in heart rate, etc. In case of severe toxicity death of an animal can occur. If you are keeping pets at home, it is advised to keep these succulents away from their reach. In case your pets accidentally chew upon these succulents seek medical help immediately.

Conclusion

Conclusively, Panda plants are super amazing and easy to grow succulents. They need minimal care and can grow well even if neglected for a considerable period.

They can add spark to indoor and outdoor displays due to their adorable appearance. Make sure you keep your succulents away from intense direct sunlight and below-freezing temperatures to ensure their long life. Also, avoid overwatering and keep the insect pests away from Panda plants.

 

I hope you will find these growing tips useful. For more queries and questions related to your favorite plants feel free to write to us.

Have a great time planting.

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